Israel on Friday slammed a United Nations investigation into alleged war crimes committed during its recent 22-day assault of Gaza following the appointment of a former international prosecutor to head the mission.
"This is not an attempt to find the truth but to tarnish Israel’s reputation and to join efforts led by some countries to demonize Israel," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.
"The investigation has no moral ground since it decided even before it started who is guilty and of what," he said.
"Unreliable" UN agency
Earlier on Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Richard Goldstone to head a probe after it voted on Jan. 12 to investigate "grave" human rights violations by Israeli forces against the Palestinians.
The four-member team, which also involves experts from Pakistan, Britain, and Ireland, hopes to start its fact-finding work in the region within weeks, according to a U.N. statement.
Palmor said "the U.N. Human Rights Council is the most unreliable and has the worst reputation of all the U.N. agencies. All the states that are close to the issue of human rights criticize this body and question its reliability.
"The decision which led to the appointment was radical, especially since not one democratic state supported it and it was passed with the votes of states that violate human rights on a regular basis."
Meanwhile, a senior official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has yet to decide on whether to cooperate with the U.N. team.
"It is unclear how the government will decide to treat the commission. We have cooperated in the past with similar investigations," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Goldstone, a former war crimes prosecutor, said he would review conduct by both sides in Israel’s 22-day assault on the Hamas-ruled strip.
"It is in the interest of all Palestinians and Israelis that the allegations of war crimes and serious human rights violations related to the recent conflict on all sides be investigated," he said in the statement.
Interest of All
Israel’s deadly air, sea and ground bombardment left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead while thirteen Israelis, ten soldiers and three civilians, were killed.
"I am confident that the mission will be in a position to assess in an independent and impartial manner all human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in the context of the conflict which took place between Dec. 27, 2008 and Jan. 18, 2009," said U.N. Human Rights Council President Martin Uhomoibhi.
Uhomoibhi added that the four-person mission could "provide much needed clarity about the legality of the thousands of deaths and injuries and the widespread destruction that occurred."
Western countries and Israel have rejected the resolution that set up the investigation as too one-sided because it singled out Israeli military attacks and did not address possible violations by Hamas forces, including rocket attacks on Israel.
However, Goldstone’s remarks on being appointed suggested that he would seek a broader approach than many Muslim member states that first proposed the mission had intended.